Madera County Historical Society
Twenty-five years ago, the Madera Wagon Train crossed the Colorado River into California. The local pioneers from James Monroe School began their journey from Nogales, Arizona. Their destination was Madera, and their purpose was to launch the centennial celebration of Madera County. The trip took them 26 days. Teacher Ed Gwartney was driving the lead wagon, which his 4th grade students made.
25 Years Ago
Week of Jan. 21, 1993
PRINCIPALS PUT ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE — A bomb was dropped Wednesday that rocked the community and shook Madera High School at its foundation. Principal Beau Carter and Vice Principal Perry Harper have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation into the use of student body funds is conducted. Superintendent Tom Riley said, “I have taken this action because questions have arisen with regards to the use of student body funds. An independent, outside auditor will be examining student body accounts beginning today.” The decision to take the action against the two men was made in an executive session of the school board Tuesday night.
RICHEY TO FACE MURDER CHARGE — Richard Ray Richey Jr., arrested after the Oct. 11 gun battle with police at Skeeko’s bar, will face a murder charge after all. Madera County Superior Court Judge John DeGroot overturned an earlier decision by retired judge Carl Evans, who said Richey could not be charged with the death of his partner Hollis Bethal, who was killed by police gunfire. Madera County District Attorney Ernie LiCalsi argued the situation did not fall under “vicarious liability” as Evans had claimed. Richey had exited Skeeko’s first and refused to surrender, firing at police who returned fire and killed Bethal.
‘PIONEERS’ RETURN HOME THURSDAY — Members of Madera’s wagon train will no doubt have some interesting tales from the trail to share with the community when they arrive home Thursday. At 1 p.m. the wagons will reach Courthouse Park to greet their families and friends after being 26 days on the trail. Their arrival was scheduled to coincide with the beginning of the centennial celebration of the creation of Madera County. The wagon train left Madera Jan. 3 for Nogales, Arizona, where the group of 10 students and seven adults began a journey that took them over the same trail taken by an authentic 49er during the Gold Rush.
FARMWORKER GROUP DENOUNCES RACIST GRAFFITI — Most of Madera’s graffiti has been gang related, but the already-bad problem got uglier early Tuesday morning. Racist slogans were painted on the Mixteca Campesina Activa building on Sixth Street. Most had four-letter words denouncing Hispanics. One read, “Wetbacks go home,” and another said “Death to Mexico.” MICA spokesman Manuel Cardenas said, “This attack demonstrates the racist attitudes of some members of the Madera community. We hope to show that the majority won’t tolerate these attitudes.” Pointing to the graffiti, Cardenas said with a smile, “This (Madera) is my home.”
OWNER: JACK IN THE BOX BURGERS ARE SAFE — The hamburgers served at Madera’s Jack in the Box are safe, said Austin F. Wallestad, owner and operator of the Madera Jack in the Box as well as five in Fresno, one in Sanger, and one in Sonora. None of the contaminated meat that was the cause of a tragic outbreak of food related illnesses was shipped to this area. Despite the fact that no bad meat was shipped to any of his restaurants, Wallestad said, “business has dropped off considerably.” At first he didn’t think it would impact his business like it has. :”I would like to thank the people who are still coming in to our store,” said Wallestad.
50 Years Ago
Week of Jan. 21, 1968
FRUIT BASKET FIRE DAMAGE SET AT $55,000 — Total damages of Monday’s Fruit Basket Fire was estimated at $55,000. Assistant Fire Chief Joe McKee reported an estimated $40,000 damages to the contents and $15,000 in damages to the building. He pointed out damages might have been reduced if there had not been so much confusion and the fire department had been notified earlier. “At the time the attempt was being made to extinguish the flames in the kitchen, no one bothered to call us,” he said. When the trucks and men arrived at the scene, he reported, the fire had already spread from the kitchen into the other areas. McKee issued a warning that the fire department should be notified any time a fire starts no matter how minor it is so that it does not develop into a major blaze.
COUNCILMAN WELLS TO SEEK RE-ELECTION IN APRIL — John Wells, first-term councilman, announced today that he will seek re-election in the Madera April city elections. Wells holds one of two council seats open this year. The other incumbent is two-term councilman Charles Marsh, who plans to announce next week if he will run again. Wells, 39, is a teacher at the Dairyland Elementary School where he has been on the staff for three years. His background also includes a period as manager of the municipal pool and as a police officer for one year. Wells is a Fresno State College graduate, and works part-time as a car salesman for Shebelut Chevrolet Company. He is a Korean War veteran and a retired U.S. Army Captain.
FRUIT BASKET OWNER PONDERS REBUILDING PLANS — Cleanup and inventory work was progressing today at the burned-out Fruit Basket restaurant on Gateway Drive. Dale Gleichweit, owner, said today that he hopes to be able to announce his future plans by mid-week next week. Ashes must be sifted and every item inventoried, Gliechweit explained today. Cleanup will proceed, with the sign to be taken down soon, he said. Of primary concern, he noted, are the 30 employees who have been thrown out of work by the fire, which gutted the well-known, 24-hour-a-day restaurant at 3:30 a.m. Monday. Most of the Fruit Basket staff is subsisting now on unemployment insurance payments, he said.
MAN CHARGED WITH CARRYING LOADED GUN, BURGLARY — Eldon Rightnour, 45, of 207 Wilson St. was booked into Madera County Jail Wednesday night on charges of carrying a loaded, concealed weapon and burglary. He was arrested in the back yard of the Madera Lumber Company by city police. Police report Rightnour had entered the yard by cutting a hole in the wire fence. He had a hacksaw and screwdriver in his possession at the time of his arrest. Police went to investigate when they were alerted by a caller who told them there had been some noise heard in the area.
SPECTACULAR YOSEMITE FIREFALL ELIMINATED — The spectacular Firefall, a nightly thriller for Yosemite visitors for nearly a century, has been eliminated. Its last performance was Thursday night. The sudden action was announced by the National Park Service to reduce the number of visitors to the park by eliminating some of its attractions. The Firefall, seen by millions since it first began in 1871, was created by pushing burning fir bark off the cliff at Glacier Point and letting it cascade to the valley floor 1,000 feet below, similar to a waterfall. It was a nightly occurrence during the summer months and was performed three times a week in the winter.